This Lunar New Year, Asian neighborhoods across the nation represent not just sites of culture but also the community’s resilience from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The holiday is not only of economic significance, representing for instance around one-third of San Francisco Chinatown’s revenues, but it also builds community as the parade attracts tens of thousands of people, reported the San Francisco Examiner.
State Rep Donald Wong of the Massachusetts House Asian Caucus and a Saugus Republican urged shoppers to support Asian-owned businesses.
“Not only have these businesses been impacted by the rise in discrimination against Asian Americans, this investment in our local economy is integral in recovering from the pandemic,” Wong said to NBC Boston.
Recent Omicron surges represent a setback and forced new restrictions on businesses. Bill and Kathy Lee of the Far East Cafe in San Francisco can no longer offer in-person dining for their eight-course Lunar New Year menu, reverting to takeout-only, according to the Examiner.
Similarly, Oakland Chinatown has also made adjustments in light of Omicron, reducing its celebration size, according to Oaklandside. Businesses continue to remain optimistic, however, as the ushering of Year of the Tiger represents strength and courage.
“Last year I think we were in the middle of a shutdown – during that time we couldn’t even [be] allowed to do outdoor seating, forget indoors,” George Chen, owner of the China Live restaurant in San Francisco said to Voice of America. “This year is tough. … We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully people will feel more comfortable, get vaccinated, and come out and enjoy themselves.”
This sentiment is mirrored by Kenneth and Kelly Lam who own Kelly Smoke Shop in Oakland — the couple sells Kumquat trees, with each tree prepared by hand. According to Kenneth, continuing to sell their trees (which represent prosperity) anchors them to the more positive aspects of the new year.
“Everything has been put on hold for the last two years, but life will go on. I think everything will get better from here on,” Kenneth said to Oaklandside.
The rise in crime in Chinatown has also had an impact. Many cash-only businesses like Big Dish Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown are converting to accepting credit cards in light of robberies and attacks, reported CBS5. They suspect their elderly customers are afraid to carry cash out of fear of being robbed. These restaurants also don’t want to be a target for robberies because they have a lot of cash on hand
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